OSLO (Reuters) - Norwegian police are looking at 20 suspected war criminals from Syria, following tips from refugees and local immigration authorities, a police official told Reuters.
Some 10,500 Syrian asylum seekers reached Norway in 2015, a third of all the country’s asylum seekers last year.
“We are taking a closer look at around 20 individuals, and we are currently assessing whether there is a basis to start an investigation,” Sigurd Moe, the superintendent of the war crimes section of the National Criminal Investigation Service, said in an interview.
“It is people from both sides of the conflict. Both people we think have been on (Syrian President Bashar) Al-Assad’s side and individuals from the rebellions,” he said. The police had yet to decide whether to open formal proceedings, he said.
Norwegian police have been investigating suspected war criminals since 2005, but until now most have been from countries like Rwanda and Sri Lanka, where conflicts have ceased, making it easier to conduct investigations.
“What is new now is that we have decided to use a lot of resources on uncovering war criminals among the refugees arriving now,” Moe said. “We are spending quite a lot of resources on finding these people, because we don’t want them to wander freely around the streets of Norway.”
Tips from refugees have increased as the number of refugees has grown, he said. They amounted to about 100 tips over the past six months.
“It can be anything from belonging to a military faction which we know has been committing serious crimes, or it may be other concrete tips that go for a more specific crime.”
Suspicions of war crimes were often triggered by pictures or videos on refugees’ mobile phones, which are screened by local police upon arrival, he said. The material sometimes boasted of crimes being committed, he said.
But tips also come from other refugees who might have personal motives for reporting the person.
“There can be different motives for reporting people, and in most cases it is probably because that person has done it, but there can also be personal motives, and that is something we would have to investigate,” Moe said. Several web pages existed accusing people of being war criminals, he added.
Editing by Larry King